Hormones and Depression

Hormones and DepressionDepression is a complex yet common disorder that affects nearly 15 million Americans. There is no sole cause of depression, yet most research points to chemical imbalances in the brain. Hormones are chemical substances produced by glands of the endocrine system. Hormones enter into the bloodstream and send chemical “messages” to specific cells, tissues and organs in the body. These messages originate from brain components, such as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and control how the body functions. Hormones affect people’s energy levels, moods, appetites and physical development. When hormone levels are off-balance, the effects can be dramatic.

How Do Hormone Imbalances Contribute to Depression?

Imbalanced hormone levels can be caused by a number of issues, but many issues involve the female reproductive system, which could be why more women are diagnosed with depression than men. The menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum, birth control and menopause all involve chemical changes that can cause one’s hormone levels to fluctuate and can create an imbalance. However, there are many other universal issues that can disturb hormone levels, such as weight changes, stress, medications, health conditions and genetics. This means that men and adolescents are also capable of experiencing hormone imbalances and depression.

Hormone imbalances affect mood and energy levels. When hormone imbalances occur, the following symptoms of depression can develop:

  • Fatigue
  • Sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Despair
  • The inability to experience joy
  • The inability to feel sexual pleasure

Many biological, genetic and environmental factors can cause hormone imbalances and contribute to depression. Because of this, it is not uncommon for other underlying issues to coexist with depression, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse problems.

Can Stress Hormones Cause Depression?

Stress is a major contributor to depression because when our bodies experience stress, a specific hormone called cortisol is produced. The greater the stress is, the more cortisol is produced. In normal adults, cortisol levels start off high and then gradually decrease throughout the day. Individuals under stress experience high levels of cortisol all day due to the overproduction of this chemical. Research has shown that depression is commonly diagnosed in individuals with irregularly high levels of cortisol.

Want to Learn More about Your Options for Treating Depression?

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